Biometric Technology, are They New Toys for Children?

By: Nancy William

As a mother, I can truly understand how parents across the world feel about their children. The parent-child relationship is a universal one. It crosses languages, barriers, and borders and speaks the same language of love and protection. All parents have the same goal - to protect their children from the problems of the world. Obviously, most parents would like their children to grow to be model citizens and they would never want their children to be associated with anything criminal. Fair enough... but (and of course there is a but to everything, isn't there?) there are two sides to everything. The knife that we use to cut fruits and vegetables could also be used to kill! Does this mean that we should stop using it?

I believe it all depends on how people look at things. We can choose to be positive and to look at all the positive aspects of life, or we can choose to be pessimistic and to be threatened by every fly that passes by. (Flies can carry germs!)

Recently, I have been reading countless accounts of parents who are paranoid about fingerprinting their children, and so far I haven't been able to understand what the real issue at hand is. We have made numerous technological advancements to make our lives easier. We believe that now, in the 21st century, we are more civilized than man has ever been. So why are we not able to accept certain changes which come due to new technology? Is it because we are inherently pessimistic and cynical? I'm sure that when Marie Curie discovered Nuclear Physics her intentions were clearly not to create nuclear bombs. Humanity has benefited greatly from the development of nuclear science. Still, every time we hear the word nuclear we think of bombs and wars. It is the pessimistic nature of modern man that guides our thought process in this way.

It is true that fingerprinting has been used in the past for identifying criminals. However, the technology has evolved just as most technologies tend to do. It is rare to see someone today with a car phone or with a computer the size of an entire room. These technologies have evolved, and certainly for the better. Today, fingerprinting is generally used as a device to accurately identify people. In fact, there are a number of other biometric technologies available. Such technologies include signature readers, retina scanners and DNA samples. These have all been used to identify criminals at some point or another. But DNA is also used for many scientific tests and the study of DNA has advanced so greatly that medical science could not possibly think of doing away with it. If you were being treated for a sickness and your DNA needed to be analyzed for a possible genetic disorder, would you choose to die instead because DNA sampling is used to identify criminals? Of course this is an extreme example, but I doubt that anyone answered "Yes, of course!"

We show our children TV shows like Star Trek, The Jetsons, etc. All children have seen doors slide open and computers accessed by using fingerprinting technology "in the future". Why can't we realize that "the future" could be now, if we would only allow it to happen?

Parents are concerned that their child's fingerprint will be stored in some kind of database. To be honest, I was also concerned about this at first. However, I felt that I should gather extensive knowledge about the technology before I shot it down without a second thought. I have done online research and contacted reputable firms that offer biometric technology like M2SYS, Motorola, NEC (citations to these websites are given below) etc.

M2SYS they are an American reputable leading company in fingerprint biometric technology and most of their clients are private firms, school, gyms, banks, clinics, etc. Motorola and NEC are big multibillionaire companies that produce high-fi biometric technologies for big government agencies all around the world.

These companies confirmed what really happens when an individual is fingerprinted. It basically breaks down into an initial enrollment process and an identification process. During initial enrollment, an individual scans his fingerprint for the first time. The biometric software recognizes certain unique, key points of this individual's fingerprint. These points are then converted into a series of numbers, or a binary string. Then, each time the individual scans their fingerprint for identification, an algorithm is used to determine if the binary numbers match up with the fingerprint. If they do, then voila! The software provides instant and secure identification.

If you are still scratching your head at this point, you are not alone - I was too. Most of us will never understand the entire science involved in biometric identification. But what is easy to understand is this: every software company uses a different algorithm. There is not some magic, all-encompassing fingerprint algorithm that every company uses within their software to identify people. This means that if you had two children attending schools in different districts that were both using fingerprint identification by different biometric companies, and you accidentally sent them to the wrong schools (Mondays...) there is no way that either child could be identified. Their prints are not stored in some common database. All that is ever stored is a binary number associated with points of their prints that can only be accessed by the company that has provided the biometric software. These companies are not even associated with the government. They are mostly private technology companies just looking to sell their software solutions.

Biometric technology can be beneficial to our children by improving the security at schools and increasing the overall safety of our children, all with binary numbers which are useless to anyone but the private biometric company. I would advise every parent to do some research into the realities of biometric identification and to unveil the myth behind the infamous fingerprinting technology.

Of course if we want to think negatively, nothing is one hundred percent foolproof. Computers make our lives easier but they can be hacked too. However, if the biometric software is hacked, the thief would be disappointed that all he would receive were the useless strings of numbers. As one company put it, it would be easier to steal fingerprint data from something a child had touched than to design an intricate reverse algorithm; all to retrieve a useless series of points of a fingerprint.

Life is full of possibilities if we think positively and are open to new technology. I, for one, am more interested in my child safely growing up in a world full of amazing technological advances that my generation could never have even dreamed. I believe that this world is possible if we don't hinder its progress by bashing advancements that we know nothing about. In the end, we may all have different opinions, but I am asking that we all gather knowledge about each new technology before we ruin a great possibility for our children.

Resources:

http://www.m2sys.com

http://www.nec.com

http://www.motorola.com



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